“How I seized the Silver”

Scrap metal and the ease with which its origin can be concealed has been much in the news lately. Silver too can be melted down either to realise its value or to alter it from its original form, and this has always been an important factor in its popularity.

However, it is rare for this to be mentioned in literature.The only example I have encountered comes from ‘Personal Adventures of a Detective… Pages from Note Books of Lieut. A. Carmichael, Glasgow Police Department’ published in 1892. There, the following story appears:

Called to a burglary, Carmichael investigated the theft of ‘“swag” comprising “12 silver table-spoons, 21 silver dessert spoons, 12 teaspoons, 21 forks, 21 dessert forks, 2 gravy spoons, 3 toddy ladles, cream pots, fish knives, &c., &c.”

From hints gathered in the course of his inquiries, Carmichael visited the home and premises of Schlau and Son. Going into the kitchen, he found a huge pot, almost red at the bottom, on a roaring fire of coke. “The pot contained a seething liquid, which was assuredly never meant for supper.....I lifted the pot off the fire and found in it - as I had supposed - a quantity of melted silver. Another crucible standing on the jamb was uncovered and found to contain a great many spoons and forks, all carefully cut into portions and ready for melting.

“A search of the elegantly furnished rooms facing the street revealed a cunning recess - a kind of sideboard hidden by the panelling - where I came upon gravy ladles, toddy ladles, silver forks, silver knives, silver spoons all bearing the hallmark and the initial letters of [their original owners]….”

Carmichael’s officers found a great deal of stolen silver and gold, much of it reworked. The Schlaus were arrested and bailed on a surety of £600. Realising the gravity of the charges, both men promptly ‘skedaddled to the States’ despite the sureties  “ where, for aught I know, they may be flourishing like the green bay tree.

“The whole affair; from an officer’s point of view, was rather unfortunate, though the gentleman whose house was robbed succeeded in getting back most of his property and the city coffers were enriched by £600.”

Luke Schrager

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